I knew that I had an interest in photography from the time I also knew I had an interest in the guitar...which was about the age of five. I got my first camera as a gift from my parents for my eighth birthday. It was one of those clunky Kodak Instamatic box cameras with the pop off flash cube thingies that burned your fingers when you tried to remove them and it had those plastic snap in film cartridges that were supposed to be idiot proof. Well, apparently for me they weren't idiot proof. I used that little Kodak camera for many of my first family vacations and I took a lot of pictures that were blurry from camera shake or blurry from subject movement or they were overexposed, underexposed and sometimes I'd have my finger in front of the lens...... Succinctly, if it could ruin your photograph...I did it. I had a lot of ambition to want to learn how to shoot good pictures in my early days but I had no real camera or any instruction in the art of photography and the greatest majority of my first efforts were terrible.
By the time I hit my teens I was working in a local restaurant and I decided that the only way I was ever going to learn how to shoot properly was to start by getting an actual tool, so I bought my first "real" camera when I was fifteen years old in 1975. I had worked for six months as a dishwasher making $2.10 an hour and had finally saved up enough money to buy the "camera of my dreams." It was a Canon F-tb with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, which at the time cost me $259. In 1975 that was an enormous amount of money for a fifteen year old kid. When my grandfather, a stout Scotsman, heard of my intended purchase he snorted at me in his thick Scottish brogue, "ar ya off yer nit?!" (translation....are you nuts?) Obviously he didn't think my paying that much for a camera at my age was a good idea. None the less...I was not deterred. Once I had learned how to use that camera I joined my high school yearbook committee and photographed for them for four of the five years I spent in high school. Many of my images grace the yearbook from those years. My time on that yearbook committee solidified my passion for photography and it shone a light toward my future profession. I decided in my last year that I would pursue photography for a living...much to the distress of my father who wanted me to be a carpenter like him.
In order to improve my chances of succeeding in the vocation I decided to apply to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now a University) for their film and fine art program and study the profession in earnest. Ryerson offered the most prestigious photography course in the entire country and students from all over Canada applied to study there. I was fortunate enough to be accepted and I began my studies in September of 1980. During that time I had moved out of the family home to be on my own and had also started working as a sub-contracted photographer at the Ontario Jockey Club photographing harness horse racing in order to support myself. I worked five nights a week from five at night until midnight...and sometimes later. The next day I would sleepily attend my courses. That workload quickly became oppressive and in my second year at Ryerson I was unable to complete the majority of my course assignments. It was not long before I was hopelessly behind in achieving my grades. It was also then that a fortuitous event occurred which would shape my future for the next few years.
The photographer at the Ontario Jockey Club I was working for decided to let his contract with the organization expire and it then became open to tender for any business enterprise. My co-worker at the time and I decided that rather than be thrust out of our jobs completely simply because the contract was expiring beneath us that we would form a business partnership and tender the contract ourselves under a new business partnership....so we formed a legal partnership and did just that. Since we were already at the race track doing the very job being contracted out for the Jockey Club saw the wisdom in hiring us as a partnership and they awarded us the contract. That was an enormous moment in my beginnings as a photographer. We began our business partnership in the late fall of 1982. I also quickly realized that it was completely redundant for me to continue paying for and studying a profession in University when I had just been granted a lucrative contract photographing the largest horse racing operation in Canada and I was also immediately making a great income in my chosen profession...so...I made the decision to leave Ryerson in the middle of my second year and pursue this new golden opportunity.
We were financially extremely successful for the few years of our operation but I quickly grew weary of working nights only as the Standardbreds only raced in the evenings. This was not something I could have foreseen when I began the partnership. So, I decided to sell my share of the business in 1985 to pursue other opportunities. I then went to work as a photographer for the Mississauga News, a small community newspaper in the city of Mississauga where I lived. It was a fun job and I enjoyed the assignments I was given but it never paid very much so later that year I decided that I would switch career gears entirely and attempt to secure a career in firefighting, something that I had always thought about in the back of my mind but had never pursued. I applied to many of the departments in the southern Ontario region and I was hired by the Markham Fire and Emergency services on August 5th, 1986.
I continued to work in photography all throughout my thirty year career in firefighting. In 1979 I had made my first skydive and in the fall of 1986...my initial year in firefighting... I pioneered the first ever wing strut mounted camera system in Canada that photographed static line student skydivers exiting from a Cessna 206 aircraft. I sold tens of thousands of images to first jump students as souvenirs of their skydive and the business did extremely well for 24 years. At one point in the early years of that business I had three separate drop zone photographic operations going at the same time. At the same time I was also continuing to skydive on my own and build my experience and in 2004 I also branched out into tandem videography/photography and skydived alongside tandem students and their tandem masters photographing the students making their first tandem skydive. I made thousands of skydives photographing tandem students from 2004 until 2012. In total I surpassed 6,500+ jumps before hanging up my rig.....(for the time being....).
In 2005 I began a minor hockey league tournament photography business and I ran that during the winter weekends while continuing to run my skydiving photography business during the summer months. I shot approximately 130 hockey tournaments through seven years before shutting down the business in the fall of 2012. Both of these businesses ran in conjunction with my full time service on the fire department.
I retired from the fire service on January 31st, 2017 after thirty years and six months of professional city firefighting. It is a career which I am proud of and will always look back on fondly.
I now begin the next chapter of my life as: "The Wandering Fireman". I hope to travel the world and photograph my adventures along the way and I invite you all to experience it with me through the words and images I post.
Please feel free to write me and tell me how you think I'm doing so far and what I can do to improve what I do...........and thanks for joining me.